By Joseph Wulfsohn
Published October 04, 2019
Bloomberg Law has retracted its report about a Labor Department official's social media posts, more than one month after the outlet was criticized for the piece.
The outlet, while retracting the story on Friday, also issued an apology for the post failing to meet its "editorial standards."
"Bloomberg Law has retracted this article, published on Sept. 3. In reporting on a series of social media posts from Department of Labor official Leif Olson, we failed to meet our editorial standards for fairness and accuracy," the retraction said. "We regret that lapse and apologize to our readers and to Mr. Olson."
Critics spoke out last month after Olson resigned following a Bloomberg Law reporter asking about old Facebook posts that he labeled anti-Semitic. Others contended that the postings were "obviously sarcastic."
Reporter Ben Penn published a piece headlined, “Trump Labor Aide Quits After Anti-Semitic Facebook Posts Surface,” detailing Olson’s sudden resignation, which occurred days before the story's publication.
Olson resigned from his position after the reporter asked the DOL for comment on Facebook posts from 2016 when Paul Nehlen lost to Paul Ryan in the Wisconsin Republican congressional primary.
“Olson, an unsuccessful GOP candidate in 2012 for a Texas district court judgeship, fired off a series of late-night posts on his personal Facebook page three years ago that started as a sarcastic quip about former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s blowout primary victory. They then devolved into an exchange referencing two anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the media and that they look out for members of their own faith,” Penn wrote.
Olson was a Ryan supporter in 2016 when his primary opponent was Nehlen, a self-described “pro-White” candidate with a history of defending white supremacist messages on social media. Olson took to Facebook after Ryan's victory and appeared to mock a Nehlen supporter with a series of messages.
Olson told Penn that the remarks were simply “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions” and declined to comment on why he resigned from his job as a senior policy adviser.
Penn noted that “a review of a decade of Olson’s Facebook posts shows that he usually promotes his Christian faith and conservative views” and the “Ryan exchange appears to be the only appeal to Jewish stereotypes.”
Media members on both sides of the political spectrum scolded Penn over the report at the time.
“This article is a joke. The comments in question are so obviously sarcastic it would take willful blindness to miss it,” conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote.
New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait called the situation “terribly unfair” and laid out his reasoning in a series of tweets.
“Trump Labor official Leif Olson has resigned due to a putatively anti-Semitic Facebook post. But if you read the post, it appears to be mocking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” Chait wrote. “Let's walk through it. The context for the post is a primary challenge to Paul Ryan by anti-Semitic right-winger Paul Nehlen. … In the post that got him fired, Olson was mocking Nehlen and the logic of his supporters.”
The next day, Olson was reinstated at the Department of Labor.
"Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the Department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division," the Department of Labor (DOL) announced in a statement.